Press Releases




Release 11 March 2014



ShastaYama 2014 Taiko Summit

Mount Shasta will provide a dramatic presence for ShastaYama 2014 celebrating a "taiko summit" of the most honored and respected taiko artists in America on Saturday evening, July 26 at Mount Shasta's Shastice Park. Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka and San Francisco Taiko Dojo and Mater Kenny Endo and the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble will headline an exciting expanded ShastaYama show. Also appearing will be Masato Baba, Michelle Fujii, and Toru Watanabe representing the leaders of a new taiko generation. The Shasta Taiko community group, led by taiko pioneers and Shasta Taiko/ShastaYama founders Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, will also perform.

Taiko's roots are from Japanese rural culture and the drums were later included in Japanes traditional music and theater. Modern taiko is a performance art with an orchestra of drums of various sizes and tones with choreography, dance movements, and theater, and is often accoumpanied by traditional Japanese musical instruments and/or a variety of world and contemporary instruments. Today there are thousands of taiko enthusiasts worldwide who are influencing taiko's direction. It is now common to hear taiko on soundtracks for movies and commercials.

Grand Master Tanaka introduced modern taiko to America, and his group, San Francisco Taiko Dojo celebrated their 45th year in 2013. Grand Master Tanaka has been honored for artistic excellence and aurhteticity and recognized for his contributions by both American and Japanese governments. He and his troupe have toured worldwide and performed in prestigious venues and with esteemed musicians, including Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Art Blackey, Bobby McFerrin, and Max Roach, to name a few. Grand Master Tanaka and San Francisco Taiko Dojo have contributed to major movies - "The Right Stuff," "Rising Sun," "Return of the Jedi," and "Apocalypse Now."

Master Kenny Endo is the first American and foreigner to receive a "natori" (stage name and master's license) in "hogaku hayashi" (Japanese classical music). Master Endo has been influential in introducing America to Japanese classical and festival drumming and is recognized worldwide for the use of taiko in contemporary compositions. He has performed for Micheal Jackson, Prince, and Princes Diana and Prince Charles. He has performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Honolulu Symphony, and the Tokyo Symphony, and at the Smithsonian, the National Museum of Natural History, the Kennedy Center, and the National Theater of Japan. He is featured on the soundtracks for "Picture Bride" and "Apocalypse Now," and recorded in motion capture suit for "Avitar."

Masato Baba's talent and artistry are widely recognized and admired. An original Shasta Taiko member and the son of Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, he later trained and toured worldwide with Master Kenny Endo and studied taiko in Japan with Nihon Taiko Dojo and "fue" (Japanese flute) with Master Kysosuke Suzuki. Masato is the Musical Director for Los Angeles based company TaikoProject and is a founding member of cutting edge taiko group, On Ensemble. He has performed taiko at the Academy Awards, on The Voice, and with Alicia Keys on the X-Factor. Baba is the lead coordinator of the 2014 World Taiko Gathering in Los Angeles.

Michelle Fujii is known for her creative fusion of taiko and dance. A recipient of a Bunka-cho Fellowship to study in Japan with Master Shohei Kikuchi and folk dance group Warabi-za, she later teamed with husband Toru Watanabe, creating new forms based on folk traditions and merging dance with taiko. Michelle is the Artistic Director of Portland Taiko. She has toured with San Jose Taiko, On Ensemble, and TaikoProject. Fujii has served on the North American Taiko Board and has helped to inspire a growing American collegiate taiko movement.

Toru Watanabe's dynamic presence as a performer and dance were developed as a child, training and touring with Japan's foremost folk dance group, Warabi-za. Watanabe explores new possibilities for taiko and dance with Michelle Fujii. His theatrical and dance background have raised Portland Taiko's presentations and taiko itself to new and exciting levels.

Russel Baba is a unique woodwind stylist noted for originality in the jazz world. Jeanne Mercer has a background in classical music and visual arts. Baba and Mercer are inspirational artists and influential taiko leaders. Both trained and toured with Grand Master Tanaka and San Francisco Taiko Dojo. They have received numerous grants through the years to introduce and develop taiko in the Mount Shasta community.

Since 1885, Shasta Taiko has developed the art of taiko in America and northern California though lessons, workshops, performances, residencies, and touring. In 2005, Shasta Taiko established an outdoor taiko festival in Mount Shasta, California - ShastaYama - featuring many leading and upcoming taiko artists.

"We realized we're involved with something greater than ourselves. ShastaYama was created to evolve the art of taiko and provide stimulation for both the taiko and local communities." says Russel Baba. "A ShastaYama evening is magical. The unique sound of taiko, outstanding artists, and a great audience; inspirational music, dance, pageantry, tradition and creativity; impressive staging, lighting, and sound; Mount Shasta, the sunset, and the stars combine to make ShastaYama special."

The spectacular setting at the base of Mount Shasta in Shastice Park has proven to be a wonderful venue to perform taiko outdoors. ShastaYama has thrilled and inspired thousands of attendees. ShastaYama is the largest outdoor taiko festival in the country, and its success mirrors the amazing development of taiko in America and worldwide.

ShastaYama will be held on Saturday, July 26 at 6 p.m. at Mount Shasta's Shastice Park - Rockfellow and Adams Drive. Gates open at 5 p.m. Food and refreshments will be available. Bring blankets or lawn chairs for seating on the grass field, and warm clothes and flashlights for after sunset. No glass or pets please. Check out: or call (530) 859-8686 for more information.

Tickets: $25 ages 18 & up; $20 ages 13-17; $15 ages 5-12; and free for ages 4 & under. Ticket outlets: Mt. Shasta-Village Books & at Soul Connections; Yreka Chamber of Commerce; Redding-Bogbeans Books & Music; and at the Gate. Credit Card purchase; (800) 926-4865 ext. 203 and Online: